The Federal Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has been in the news for the widely rejected proposal to create cattle colonies in all the states of Nigeria. Soon, he and the Buhari administration might be back on the front pages for another crisis which is rapidly building up unnoticed.
The threat of massive famine in 2018 and 2019 is becoming a reality to those close to Nigeria’s farmlands. In the past, food shortage has occurred on account of unfavourable weather or pest infestation. Low rainfall ot excessive flooding as well as locust attack have in the past resulted in low food productivity.
This year, the country will experience the first full blow of the herdsmen/farmers clashes nationwide which had resulted in losses of lives and properties and had also driven several farmers from the rural areas to safe havens and far away from their farms.
Government’s tardiness in taking action to put a stop to Fulani herdsmen atrocities has created a situation in which farmers are not around, either dead or fleeing from attacks, to harvest what is left of their ravaged farms. Most of them are also not planning to return home soon to start planning for the planting season which starts anytime from now. With millions of farmers not harvesting now and not planting for the next season, it requires no prophet to predict lean years ahead.
When that occurs, the blame should lie squarely at the doorstep of the Federal Government whose leaders were myopic enough not to foresee the eventual consequences of allowing herdsmen to over-run farms nationwide with impunity. Those who will perish of hunger would have died because government failed to act in time to save the situation.
Finally, the realities in farmland call into question the reports concerning increased food production. By contrast, the recent alarm raised by the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, about twenty ships laden with rice at Cotonou port would indicate that foreign rice merchants and their Nigerian collaborators know better how serious the food situation is. And, they are poised to profit from government’s mistakes.
EDUCATION EMERGENCY IN APRIL IS AWASTE OF TIME
The Federal Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, recently announced the intention of the Federal Government to declare an Education Emergency, whatever that means, in April this year. With this administration’s term ending in May next year, it is quite obvious to other observers that this is an exercise in futility and a clever ploy to deceive Nigerians that the FG is taking strong measures to address the rot in Nigeria’s education.
The Minister while announcing the proposed emergency has indicated his intention to contact all the states of Nigeria to work collectively on the proposed emergency. He would be best advised not to waste his time. Even if all the states agree to participate in the so-called emergency, several meetings would have to be held, the communiqués from those meetings would have to be submitted to the Governors and possibly to States’ Houses of Assemblies and then the National Assembly, NASS. All these will take months – unless the FG wants to impose its will on the states on a matter which is on the concurrent list of the constitution. It is a safe bet that this government’s tenure will end and the eight NASS would have passed into history by the time the final plan is ready for implementation.
We have experienced this sort of last minute rush to introduce monumental changes by previous governments in the form of amendments to the constitution; first under Obasanjo in 2006/7 and then Jonathan in 2014. Each had ended up as a waste of scarce national resources without achieving the stated objectives.
This time, as usual the Ministry of Education and the Presidency are major contributors to the rot. Lowering admission standards for universities and establishing more universities when existing institutions are far below global standards cannot possibly help improve education. Yet, these are the characteristics of FG intervention in education since 2015. The Minister calling for the emergency is part of the problem!
We strongly suggest that the Ministry of Education should step down this proposal; wait for the outcome of the 2019 elections and then introduce it if Buhari is re-elected. As it is, unless Buhari returns to office the next President will most probably throw the proposal into the dust bin. What will Nigerians have gained by it?
HAS THE EFCC OVERPLAYED ITS HANDS?
A Federal High Court in Akure might have handed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, its first major setback when it ruled that the EFCC cannot probe states without the consent of the states Assemblies. The court declared that the EFCC lacks the power to probe states’ finances without a report of an indictment from States’ Houses of Assemblies.
Referring to section 125 (c) of the constitution, the court declared that “it is unassailable that there is separation of powers” and under sections 4,5 and 6, the constitution provides separation of powers which guarantees [states] independence and encroachment of powers.” It is the first successful challenge by a state government against the EFCC and the FG. It will certainly not be the last.
The ruling came as result of the EFCC’s persistent war against Ekiti State and its governor, Fayose, who had been a thorn in the flesh for the Buhari administration. Now, the EFCC is being forced, not only to drop the case against Ekiti state officials but others as well; or in the alternative appeal the ruling.
The Ekiti court judgment has overwhelming ramifications for the country’s war against corruption because, if upheld, the EFCC will have to drop charges against all the former governors now being prosecuted since in no instance had the State House of Assembly lodged a report of an indictment against the Governors. The ruling might even result in cases previously decided being re-opened. The impeachment of Bayelsa’s late Governor Alamieyseigha by the State House of Assembly intimidated by the EFCC under Malam Nuhu Ribadu is an example.
In the end, this judgment might turn out to be the escape route for former corrupt state government officials now facing trial for embezzling public funds and ensure that substantive justice will never be done. Crimes against states would have been made to pay handsomely.
FG’s 20-YEAR ELECTRICITY TRANSMISSION PLAN
It never fails. Presidents elected to four year-terms in Nigeria waste a lot of the first three years merely enjoying the perks of office until their popularity takes a nose-dive. Then, Nigerians start to complain so loudly that the Head of State who had been fed lies by his closest advisers and Ministers can no longer ignore the truth. Then several monumental initiatives are announced in the third year to deceive gullible Nigerians. Invariably, the so called “Master Plan” will cover so many years into the future – well beyond the second term of the President making the promise as to preclude any chance of being asked to account for the failure which eventually followed.
Buhari’s government recently unveiled another one of such Master Plans which would cover twenty years. Even Robert Mugabe, at a time he assumed life time presidency was his, never attempted such a project so far into the future. But, Nigeria’s leaders – Obasanjo, Jonathan and now Buhari – would attempt to fool all the people all the time by embarking on such ventures which have only ended up enriching their friends and associates.
Three major reasons account for our opposition to the 20-year transmission proposal. First, even if re-elected, Buhari will have only five years to implement the project. The Nigerian landscape is strewed with carcasses of abandoned projects. Invariably, these are projects started by a former government which could not complete them before leaving office and from which their successors distance themselves. This initiative will outlast Buhari by at least 15 years. There is no guarantee that his successors would not abandon it.
Second, there is an increasing global shift to renewable power sources and rejection of fossil based power generation. The relative costs of power generation will change dramatically and unpredictably in the next ten years; such that anyone planning for twenty years is gambling with the future of Nigeria.
Finally, with the rising agitation for restructuring of the country, the notion that the states or federating units will continue to leave power provision for their people to the discretion of the FG is as myopic as it is stupid. With political power redistributed, the first thing the units will address is taking power generation and distribution in their own hands.
BUHARI LOSING GRIP ON LEADERSHIP
A former President of the United States once said that there is nothing worse than for a President to look back and see that there is nobody following him. He went on to explain that failure to be sufficiently pro-active is one reason why a President might find himself racing after his own people. On many important issues on the national agenda, President Buhari is way behind the people of Nigeria and is forcing people to find their own solutions to urgent national matters. And, even when he does, it the measures taken are often too little, often inappropriate and too late. Consequently, they seldom solve the problem. Two examples will serve to illustrate the point.
The fuel scarcity which made life hell on earth for Nigerians during the December holidays could have been foreseen by a more pro-active government monitoring fuel imports into the country. By now, the FG should know what volume of fuel imported daily provides hitch-free fuel supply nationwide. It is also a fact that orders are made well in advance. It requires no rocket science intelligence to detect when forward orders for a period are far below the minimum requirement and to make amends before a crisis erupts.
The FG failed this simple test. Then Buhari proceeded to intervene in his characteristic style. First, he ordered the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to ensure that the fuel scarcity ended before Christmas; then he vowed to punish those he called saboteurs. The fuel scarcity extended well into the New Year and nobody has been punished – for the simple reason that there were no saboteurs; only an incompetent administration.
Second, Buhari recently ordered the security forces to mop up all the illegal arms in Nigeria. It was the first time the Nigerian President has acknowledged that illegal firearms, in the hands of criminals, are destabilizing the country. Where was he when Nimbo and Agatu were sacked by well-armed commandos?
Even that order, coming so late after thousands lost their lives, is defective. It says nothing about what the security forces are supposed to do with those caught with the illegal arms. The culprits could run into hundreds of thousands. One of the unintended consequences of that order is the possibility of corruption. Unless the security forces are not Nigerians, they will arrest only those who fail to “cooperate” and let the others go. Most likely, few arms will be reported recovered; enough to mask the brisk trade going on.
Most people living in dark spots of our urban areas have long experienced this with the police and hoodlums. There is no reason to expect anything different with this order given so reluctantly by the President – long after ordinary people were aware of the dangers.
HERDSMEN ATTACK ON POLICE IN BENUE A REBUKE TO IGP
When several months ago the Inspector General of Police, IGP, first erroneously attributed the planned genocide by herdsmen to communal clashes many of those who have taken the trouble to visit some of the trouble spots were alarmed. It was obvious that the IGP was attempting to evade responsibility for the security of lives and properties. Instead of going out to fish out the murderers, he was passing the blame to communities.
This was followed by a more outrageous declaration by the IGP when he claimed that anti-grazing laws in Benue and Taraba states led to the pogroms which occurred recently. That statement was illogical and unworthy of even a District Police Officer, DPO, let alone the nation’s top police officer. No anti-grazing law exists in Enugu State; yet the herdsmen sacked a whole community. The carnage in Agatu occurred in 2016 – long before the anti-grazing law came into effect. The IGP’s declarations can either be regarded as evasions or deliberate false report.
Now the IGP has a problem on his hands. There was a report in the second weekend of February 2018 about an attack on a police convoy by herdsmen and four police officers have been declared missing. Certainly, the herdsmen are aware that the police are their friends. They know that the officers were not responsible for the anti-grazing law. So, why attack them and abduct four of them?
What will the IGP tell the families of the officers abducted if not found or found dead? Will he tell their loved ones they died in communal strife or because of anti-grazing law for which they were not responsible? Will the Nigeria Police accept the attack as one of those things or go after the killers of their colleagues?
The truth which is starring the IGP in the face is already well-known to right-thinking Nigerians. Some Fulani groups are bent on conquest through terrorism and they don’t care who is killed – the IGP himself included.
AUDU OGBEH IS ON HIS OWN WITH CATTLE COLONIES
It is always dangerous to be over-zealous and to run too far ahead of the pack when there is social tension. Chief Audu Ogbeh, a Minister for the second time, had exhibited this tendency when he was Federal Minister of Communications under President Shehu Shagari, 1979-1983. At the time he had threatened to shut down the Lagos State Radio Station for reaching other states of Nigeria with its broadcasts. Meanwhile, Rivers State Radio Station could also be picked up in Imo and Enugu states. But, Lagos State was under the Unity Party of Nigeria, while Rivers State was governed by the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, to which Ogbeh belonged.
The legal battle which was brewing was aborted when the military returned in 1983 to put an end to the palaver.
Recently, Ogbeh announced the policy of Cattle Colonies which he claimed will be established in every state of Nigeria. Fanatic as ever, Ogbeh made it appear as if the states had no choice over the matter. His enthusiasm was buoyed by the response of the Kogi state Governor who signed on without fully considering the details of the proposal. Elsewhere, the rejection was emphatic. The recent South South, SS, Summit, holding in Portharcourt declared that no state in the SS will allow the colonies. The South East and South West are just as adamant; Benue and Taraba, among Northern States have also opted out of it.
On Saturday, February 10, 2018, President Buhari put the nail on the coffin of Ogbeh’s idea of establishing Cattle Colonies by declaring that he has no powers to create cattle colonies. Without presidential backing, the idea is as good as dead. Even the Northern states which had signed on thinking Buhari supported it will back off. Ogbeh will be left on his own. From all indications, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development acted alone on this plan; he failed to carry his colleagues along. He is now left with the carcass of a policy on his hands.
It is a pity because Ogben actually has laid his hands on one of the possible solutions to this national problem. He just does not know how to sell it to his fellow Nigerians and he is reluctant to seek help. Ranching means lands will have to be given up eventually by the states.